Last Friday President Jakaya Kikwete announced a credible Constitutional Review Commission, proving that he was really determined to leave a legacy as someone who spearheaded and bequeathed the nation a constitution by the people and for the people.
We call it a credible team because of the calibre of those who have been appointed by the president to spearhead this crucial process of gathering people’s views in our quest to have a new constitution that fulfills the needs of our nation and time.
Judging by the names of those appointed on Friday, it’s obvious that in picking the team the president went beyond political expediency by sticking to the credibility, integrity and ability of its members to deliver.
This is one of very rare occasions in which President Kikwete has proved to be fully committed to giving Tanzanians a good constitution. We understand that the appointed individuals have their political affiliations, but we strongly believe that they will act beyond their political straitjacket.
We are fully satisfied by the way the President has so far handled the constitutional review process. First, he went against the wishes of the majority of his own party’s MPs when he decided to meet opposition parties, mainly Chadema, whose legislators had boycotted the constitutional review bill debate in Parliament.
After meeting Chadema’s leaders as well as other opposition parties’ representatives, the constitutional review Act was amended and taken back to Parliament, which rubbed the wrong way hardliners within the ruling party.
Even when the MPs from his party were utterly against the president’s move, he still met them and convinced them that an all-encompassing new constitution was in the national interest and had therefore to be handled with clear minds devoid of partisan and ideological fetters.
On Friday President Kikwete proved again that he was acting beyond partisanship by appointing a credible team to drive the process. Should this process sail though as planned and produce a people-centred constitution before 2015, it will give President Kikwete a very strong legacy to be cherished by future generations.
The President has played his role effectively and fairly. Now it’s our turn as citizens of this country to perform our duty, bearing in mind that what is being sought is not a document for a particular political party, race, tribe or religion, but a mother of all laws which will protect our country and its people for many generations to come.
We should bear in mind that we are not seeking a new constitution to defeat the ruling party or block the opposition from winning in future general elections. We should understand that what we are seeking is a constitution to stand this country in good stead long after we, the drafters, will have departed from the stage.
For us to play our role effectively, first of all we should read and understand the current constitution - its weaknesses and strengths. It would be an exercise in futility to challenge a document whose contents one has not read and digested.
The media should also play a crucial role of educating the masses in order to create awareness about the constitution-making process and why it matters in our lives.
Political parties, civil societies, lawyers and religious leaders should also play a role by educating the masses. In so doing, they should understand that the forces that unite us as a nation are stronger than our political ideologies and ethnicity.
We should engage in constructive debate instead of destructive discussions led by emotions and cheap politics.